Thursday

22nd Oct 2020

Berlusconi faces crucial vote Wednesday

Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi faces a crucial test of his power on Wednesday when the lower house of parliament votes on a no-confidence motion against a junior minister accused of corruption.

The result of the motion, tabled by the opposition, is being seen as measure of how much Mr Berlusconi's political authority has been damaged by last week's split with Gianfranco Fini, co-founder of his conservative People of Freedom (PDL) party.

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  • Gianfranco Fini - a former ally of Berlusconi but now a challenger (Photo: capitaledigitale)

The motion concerns junior justice minister Giacomo Caliendo under investigation on suspicion of belonging to a secret "dirty tricks" group that allegedly tried to influence judges involved in cases related to Mr Berlusconi.

If MPs vote against Mr Caliendo, who has denied all accusations, it could set off a governmental crisis and eventually lead to early elections.

The Berlusconi-Fini split came after months of bitter exchanges between the two men.

Once a loyal ally of the prime minister, Mr Fini has become an open critic and positioned himself as standing up for ethics in politics, criticising plans to restrict police use of wiretaps and saying that any minister under investigation should automatically resign.

Last week, 33 deputies loyal to Mr Fini, a former fascist turned conservative liberal politician, broke away to form their own group in the lower house. On Monday, 10 members of the senate indicated they wanted to form a parallel group in the upper house.

The move may have robbed Mr Berlusconi of his majority in the Chamber of Deputies but it remains unclear how the defectors will vote on Wednesday.

The vote is due to take place just hours before UK prime minister David Cameron is to meet Mr Berlusconi for talks. It also comes as the country faces testing economic times. The parliament recently passed an austerity package containing €25 billion in budget cuts, aimed at bringing the country's deficit to under three percent of gross domestic product by 2012.

The political crisis is adding to an already febrile atmosphere in domestic politics with Italians by now long exposed to a steady stream of corruption and sex scandals surrounding their 73-year old media magnate leader.

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